Inspired by a lifelong love of paper and one memorable trip to France, artist and author Cat Seto founded San Francisco’s Ferme à Papier—a collection of gift cards, planners, notepads, art prints, calendars, and more. Since then, the stationary line has been featured in InStyle, Elle Décor, and Refinery29, among others, and made its way into boutiques, museum shops, and bookstores in the US and abroad. We sat down with Cat to learn more about her background and what makes her tick.
Can you tell us about the Ferme à Papier line?
Ferme à Papier is a line of paper goods that is hand-illustrated, made in California from our studio in San Francisco, and printed on 100-percent PCW eco-friendly stock.
What were your inspirations for the designs?
My inspiration is a mix of Paris meets Brooklyn. I took a trip to Paris for the first time a few years back and was mesmerized by the people, color palettes, and history. When I returned, I couldn't stop drawing for three weeks straight. I had 52 images at that point and a new line.
When did you know you wanted to be a designer, and how did you end up in San Francisco?
I originally came to SF as a writer in fiction. But writer's block led to sleepless nights crafting felt finger puppets that ended up being characters in a stationery line. I took this line to NY to debut and Anthropologie was my first client.
Where did your love of paper come from?
I used to draw on the back of my father's old engineering blueprints, so my love of paper started very young. Paper has always been the medium for my expression, whether it was in painting or writing.
How do you assess paper quality?
When we rebranded to Ferme à Papier, it was very important that we move to eco-friendly paper. It needed to be 100-percent PCW and also chlorine-free.
How do you balance being a mother with creativity?
The balance is real... and I'm reminded and humbled by it on a daily basis. My son is a better drawer than I was at his age, and I love seeing his expression of the world through his art.
What is your favorite writing instrument?
I have a vintage Cross pen that belonged to my mother. It’s slender with just the right weight for my hand.
As an artist, you must constantly be putting ideas on paper. How do you decide which designs to turn into products?
I dream and think and research a lot during my day. There are about a thousand ideas churning at once, but only when I can really see it in my head does it come out onto paper and then become rendered into a product. The decision is part intuitive and organic, and part guided by my indie street MBA.
Are all of your designs hand-illustrated first and then transferred to a computer for final artwork?
I am classically trained in painting and watercolor, so in the beginning I had zero experience in the graphic arts. I had to render everything, including patterns, by hand. This has ended up being a cornerstone to my design, although now I am more comfortable taking renderings into digital for finishing.
What do you love most about being a designer?
Freedom to express creatively. I try to never take that for granted.